I wrote an article heading into tonight’s preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers arguing that second-year cornerback Brian Allen was not showing the sort of second-year growth that might have been hoped for and that, while his roster spot might have been relatively secure, it could help force the team to keep Coty Sensabaugh as an extra cornerback.
The 2017 fifth-round pick played his best preseason game of the year for the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight, however, helping to solidifying his standing not just on the team but as a prospect that is continuing his development process.
The 6’3” former wide receiver showed well overall in the game, though was by no means flawless. He missed a tackle or two and was beat in coverage here and there. Once again he was aggressive, gambling to jump a route, and got burned. But the very fact that he is showing the confidence to make those aggressive moves is encouraging, because it means he’s comfortable and knows what he’s doing.
One thing that I do think the former Utah defensive back has shown improvement in all preseason has been in being more physical, especially when it comes to tackling. That was most evident in tonight’s game, where he was pretty aggressive on several tackles, making a couple in the open field.
There’s nothing that fans like more than a young, high-upside guy, so there are plenty of people in Allen’s corner—some too much so. But when you have testimonials for such players as celebrated as Alejandro Villanueva, it reinforces the passion to pull for them.
I don’t know if Allen is ever going to develop into a quality defensive contributor, let alone starter. I don’t even know that he necessarily has to reach that point in order to justify being in the league. He has already carved out a niche for himself on special teams and, during this preseason, has displayed four-phase ability.
The Steelers are pretty deep a cornerback this year, and the second-year player may spend some time on the inactive list because of that. it might be a weekly battle between himself and Sensabaugh to see who dresses. But neither of them are in the top four.
Those spots belong to Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, and Cameron Sutton, even though the latter two are injured and coming off a rough night, respectively. There would probably have to be an injury for either of the other two cornerbacks to get on the field.
That is unless the team decides to design some sort of package for them. A couple of seasons ago, they did that when they had bigger cornerbacks that they wanted to play against tight ends, using Justin Gilbert and Al-Hajj Shabazz. Thought I’d just throw that out there as a reminder.